Time of flight mass spectrometry imaging of samples fractured in situ with a spring-loaded trap system

Ingela Lanekoff, Michael E. Kurczy, Rowland Hill, John S. Fletcher, John C. Vickerman, Nick Winograd, Peter Sjövall, Andrew G. Ewing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


An in situ freeze fracture device featuring a spring-loaded trap system has been designed and characterized for time of flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (TOF SIMS) analysis of single cells. The device employs the sandwich assembly, which is typically used in freeze fracture TOF SIMS experiments to prepare frozen, hydrated cells for high-resolution SIMS imaging. The addition of the spring-loaded trap system to the sandwich assembly offers two advances to this sample preparation method. First, mechanizing the fracture by adding a spring standardizes each fracture by removing the need to manually remove the top of the sandwich assembly with a cryogenically cooled knife. A second advance is brought about because the top of the sandwich is not discarded after the sandwich assembly has been fractured. This results in two imaging surfaces effectively doubling the sample size and providing the unique ability to image both sections of a cell bifurcated by the fracture. Here, we report TOF SIMS analysis of freeze fractured rat pheochromocytoma (PC12) cells using a Bi cluster ion source. This work exhibits the ability to obtain single cell chemical images with subcellular lateral resolution from cells preserved in an ice matrix. In addition to preserving the cells, the signal from lipid fragment ions rarely identified in single cells are better observed in the freeze-fractured samples for these experiments. Furthermore, using the accepted argument that K + signal indicates a cell that has been fractured though the cytoplasm, we have also identified different fracture planes of cells over the surface. Coupling a mechanized freeze fracture device to high-resolution cluster SIMS imaging will provide the sensitivity and resolution as well as the number of trials required to carry out biologically relevant SIMS experiments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6652-6659
Number of pages8
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 1 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Analytical Chemistry


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